The Texas Legislature moved a step closer Monday in toughening the state’s penalties for those who hijack votes from unsuspecting Texans by using mail-in ballots.
The House Elections Committee on Monday voted 4-2 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 5, legislation aimed at making it harder for vote harvesters to operate and to increase penalties for interfering with mail-in votes.
Vote harvesters appropriate mail-in ballots or hijack the ballots to direct a vote for a particular candidate.
The bill was authored by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) and would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones within a month after an election, and a process for correcting errors.
Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud in some cases could reach $4,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.
With some exceptions, for Texans to be eligible to vote by mail, they must be 65 or older or have a disability. Those are voters who can be more easily preyed on, many have argued.
“So much election fraud in Texas is at the expense of the elderly…” Alan Vera of the Harris County Republican Party said as he testified in support of the bill at a Senate hearing. “This bill addresses that real problem.”
The last successful effort at the Capitol to crack down on mail-in voter fraud was in 2003 when former state Rep. Steve Wolens (D-Dallas) shepherded a bill through the legislature that created penalties for assisting elderly and infirm voters who could not make it to the polls.
The bill, which has passed the Senate, now goes before the full House.
Read more coverage on mail-in voter fraud from The Texas Monitor:
- AG’s office shines spotlight on major law firm in voter fraud probe
- Will legislation — finally — crack down on mail-in voter fraud?
- Texas mail-in voter fraud common, solutions to it less so
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or ar 832-258-6119.